May 10

PASSING STRANGE: More than ‘the real’

The cast of Passing Strange. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

 Passing Strange, book and lyrics by Stew, music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, New Repertory Theatre, The Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 5/1/11-5/22/11, http://newrep.org/passing_strange.php.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

New Repertory Theatre’s production of Passing Strange examines a classical theme in a post-modern construct–the quest for the meaning of life.  Like Candide and Pippin, the youth in Passing Strange leaves his familiar surroundings to find “the real” or the meaningful existence but finds only more illusion and more questions.  New Rep’s masterful presentation carries the audience along the journey, earnestly hoping the youth will find what he is looking for.

If New Repertory Theatre uses even half of the talent from Passing Strange for their fall production of Rent, they will have another hit on their hands.  The vibrant cast of Passing Strange electrifies the concert-style stage with their performances. Continue reading

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May 02

Antony and Cleopatra (ASPBoston): To the mattresses

Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 4/27/11-5/21/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/antony_cleo.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photo by Stratton McCrady

Actors’ Shakespeare Project continues to bring intelligible Shakespeare to Boston.  One of Shakespeare’s most complicated plots of politics and passion, Antony and Cleopatra can leave Shakespeare neophytes confused and questioning.  This production provides a clear path for understanding and appreciation of the text.

The backdrop, designed by Jeff Adelberg, looks like a collection of mattress coils that make up a wall.  This suggestive detail reflects Antony’s decision-making processes.  Antony is caught up in his love and does not recognize the ever-present threat of his fellow triumvirate colleague, Octavius.  Octavius uses Antony’s distraction to destroy the triumvirate and become emperor of Rome. Continue reading

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Apr 26

The House of Blue Leaves Taunts Us One More Time

The House of Blue Leaves by John Guare, Walter Kerr Theatre, 4/4/11-7/23/11.  http://www.houseofblueleaves.com/flash.php?version=standard.   Contains stage violence, including an explosion.

Ben Stiller as Artie, Edie Falco as Bananas, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Bunny. Photo by Joan Marcus

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Like Jay Gatsby, the characters of The House of the Blue Leaves long for love and notoriety.  But also like Jay Gatsby, their shallow dreams are based upon delusions.  David Cromer’s revival uncovers all the darkness and pain hidden in the recesses of a middle class home into the light of day with laughter and cruelty.

Scott Pask’s institution-like set provides the perfect environment for an evening of madness.  But who mad?  The housewife who feels that she is nothing more than the humiliating joke of celebrity?  The zookeeper who dreams of becoming a successful movie songwriter?  Or perhaps it’s the nuns? Continue reading

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Apr 24

Steel Magnolias is a tease

L to R : Rachael Warren (Truvy), Anne Scurria (Ouiser), Madeleine Lambert (Shelby) and Janice Duclos (M'Lynn) in Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias. Directed by Brian Mertes, the show runs through May 15, 2011 in the Chace Theater. Set design by Michael McGarty, lighting design by Dan Scully, costumes by William Lane. (Photo: Mark Turek)

Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, Trinity Repertory Company, 4/15/11-5/15/11.  http://www.trinityrep.com/on_stage/current_season/OC.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Most women know if they fix their hair and get it perfect, they shouldn’t mess with it.  Unfortunately, this production has sat too long coiffing itself after it already was looking good.  The beautiful script by Robert Harling and the talented ladies of the Trinity Repertory Company get lost in gimmicks and empty space.  Perhaps, in trying to distance itself from the movie, Mertes tried to make the production “new” and “fresh”, Trinity Rep’s production of Steel Magnolias loses the intimacy that the script requires. Continue reading

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Apr 19

The Book of Grace: You Can’t Go Home Again

Frances Idlebrook as Grace, Jesse Tolbert as Buddy, Steve Barkhimer as Vet

The Book of Grace by Suzan-Lori Parks, Company One, 4/15/11-5/7/11. Mature themes and language, sexual content, and stage violence. http://www.companyone.org/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

What is the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation? What is the real threat? Company One’s production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Book of Grace explores these questions through an intimate scene between three connected, yet separate, individuals.

Vet, played by Steve Barkhimer, likes a rigid, controlled environment both at his job (as a border control officer) and in his home life. Grace, Continue reading

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Apr 15

SONS OF THE PROPHET: On Brilliance

Yusef Bulos (Bill), Kelsey Kurz (Joseph), and Dan McCabe (Charles) in the Huntington Theatre Company’s SONS OF THE PROPHET by Stephen Karam, directed by Peter DuBois. Playing 4/1/11 – 5/1/11 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. huntingtontheatre.org. Photo by Paul Marotta.

Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam, Huntington Theatre Company, 4/1/11-5/1/11, http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=8754.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“Happiness does not await us all.  One needn’t be a prophet to say that there will be more grief and pain than serenity and money.  That is why we must hang on to one another.” Anton Chekov qtd. by Stephen Karam in the program.

If Roundabout Theatre Company and the Huntington Theatre Company takes Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet to Broadway next year, in June 2012 we will likely hear, “and the Tony Award for best play goes to…Sons of the Prophet.” Taking the seemingly sombre subject of pain, Karam has written a comic masterpiece.  Add to that the talented cast, direction, and set design and the result is a fast-paced night of laughter and poignancy that should not be missed.

A deer walks into a theatre…well, it doesn’t really walk..and it’s not really a deer…    And the audience hears a car crash.  Those who came from or have family from the Poconos area of Pennsylvania don’t have to question what has happened;  Car accidents with deer are common, but…a deer decoy?  We meet Joseph Douaihly, played by Kelsey Kurz, whose father was the victim of the high-school prank that went terribly wrong–and this is only another blow in a devastating year for the Douaihly family.  Joseph has physical pain that the doctors cannot diagnose; he works for a lonely, manic woman that uses his need for health insurance as leverage to try to get Joseph to write a memoir based on his distant relation to Kahlil Gibran.  When their father does not survive the accident, the Douaihly’s ailing uncle (played by Yusef Bulos) moves in with the Joseph and his brother Charles (played by Dan McCabe).   In addition, the boy who pulled the prank might be allowed to play football in his school’s playoff games prior to going to the juvenile detention center for his crime.  Hilarious, right?  –You have no idea. Continue reading

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Apr 14

BREAKING THE CODE: Turing Passes The Test

Dafydd ap Rees (Mick Ross) and Allyn Burrows (Alan Turing) in Hugh Whitemore's BREAKING THE CODE through May 8. Presented by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT. Performances at Central Square Theater at 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. Tickets and Information: http://CentralSquareTheater.org or 866-811-4111. Photo by A.R. Sinclair Photography.


Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore, Underground Railway Theater and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT, Central Square Theater, 4/7/11-5/8/11.  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/10-11/code.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Intelligence is a prized commodity that governments and businesses appropriate for their own needs, but don’t always appreciate the ones who provide it.  Alan Turing was loved by Great Britain for his decoding work during World War II and was derided for his failure to conform to social norms after the war.  Breaking the Code masterfully explores the isolating nature of “polite” society.

Underground Railroad Company and Catalyst Collaborative@MIT bring the audience into the world of Alan Turing’s mind and memory.  Performed in the round, the audience literally steps into Janie Howland’s set of inverse geometric spirals as they take their seats.  Strings across the walls and ceiling connect formulas and ideas.  Following the idea of the spirals, director Adam Zahler has Turing (played by Allyn Burrows) follow these patterns as Turing moves through the various moments of his life.  The set and the action become an extension of Alan Turing’s personality. Continue reading

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Nov 09

THE FARCE IS WITH HIM: An Interview with Brian McEleney

www.trinityrep.com

pictured (left to right): Fred Sullivan Jr., Brian McEleney, Anne Scurria and Mauro Hantman in Twelfth Night, directed by Brian McEleney at Trinity Rep. Set designs by Eugene Lee, costumes by William Lane, lighting by John Ambrosone. (Photo: Mark Turek)

by Becca Kidwell

In these harsh economic times, it is difficult to imagine having the same job at the same company for twenty-six years.  It is even more difficult to imagine having a theatre job for longer than the run of one show.  Brian McEleney of Trinity Rep has done both.  This year, he continues his joyful romp through life as director of Trinity Rep’s productions of Absurd Person Singular and The Crucible and actor in The Completely Fictional—Utterly True—Final Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe.

Although he did a few plays in high school, it was not until college when he started to think about a theatrical career.  As a senior at Trinity College (where one of his classmates was Anne Scurria—now a fellow company member), McEleney was accepted to Yale and “that convinced me that this could be a serious career, and I’ve done almost nothing else ever since.”  He first taught at Princeton University and The Bread Loaf School of English.  Since 1981, he has taught at Trinity Rep and is currently the head of acting for the Brown/Trinity M.F.A. Program.

With successful productions both in acting and directing, I ask him which he prefers:

“Hard to say which I like more; it’s kind of like asking which of your children is your favorite…  However, preproduction work as a director is tremendous fun — thinking about the play, imagining what the production should look and feel like, finding big ideas that will tie the whole thing together.  And also, when you’re directing, the dreaded labor of learning lines isn’t an issue.  However, after the play opens you’re pretty much done.  As an actor, I love the performing aspect — the fact that you get to do it eight times a week that you get a new chance every day to make it better and deeper.  I love the athletic aspect of acting that you always have to be doing your absolute best and giving the play to a new audience every night.” Continue reading

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